The body immures the mind within a fortress; presently on all sides the fortress is beseiged and in the end, inevitably, the mind has to surrender. – Proust, Time Regained p. 512
There’s something bitter about an ending. I’ve had some endings recently, and it seems poetic to think that I’m reading the end of a novel that a man wrote at the end, the very limit, of his life. I remember being told at the beginning of the semester, by my professor, that if you read Proust your life will change forever.
I don’t know if the reading of Proust did that, but my life certainly changed, and I saw the things in Proust that I saw happening in myself, around me, and that was weird. It was like looking in the mirror, to some extent, and seeing something strange and deformed but fundamentally familiar.
Proust wonders, in the penultimate page of In Search of Lost Time, if he made the people that populate his novel “resemble monsters.” Maybe so. Maybe everyone resembles a monster–and maybe it just takes a careful observer to see the face of the monster itself, hidden in everyone, making its way in the world.
I don’t think that I have any giant, holistic things to say about it, and that might be why I find the idea of a final paper to be so terrible. I can’t imagine what I have to say that will operate outside Proust; maybe to read Proust is to know that you will forever be polluted by the knowledge that Proust has thought about things that you have thought about, and more than that, his thoughts were better.
I’m so glad that I read it. I will probably never read it again. It’s haunting.